OK, so maybe it's obvious, but a good, old-fashioned W-A-L-K is a great way for you to get exercise, and plays an essential role in your pet's overall health. Don't think of it as a chore, or you're likely to quit after a quick lap around the block and a pee, which really isn't enough activity for either of you.
How To Do It: If you have a healthy dog, walk a minimum of 15-20 minutes, which is enough to increase her heart rate and bump up her metabolism. Throw in some spurts of jogging or sprinting to keep your pup excited, and give you both a bit of cardio training.
This summer, when you and your dog are playing fetch from the lakeside dock, get involved and get a workout!
How to Do It: Instead of whipping the tennis ball (or stick or squeeze toy) into the water and sitting back while your pooch performs a sumo splash en route to fetching the ball, dive on in. It's fun to race Rover, plus you'll both benefit from the exercise. Just be sure to keep your clothes and towel away from where he climbs out of the water—and shakes off—or there won't be a dry scrap of fabric left for you.
Climbing steps together will tone your legs and butt, while giving pooch a chance to melt away the Milk-Bones.
How to Do It: Pick a long staircase in your house or, better, find one at a local park or in the bleachers at a nearby sports field. Walk up and down the stairs with your dog leashed by your side. If you're feeling good and want to challenge your pet, try changing up your steps by taking two at a time or by bounding up for short bursts. This is an especially challenging workout for a very small dog.
It's time you learned how to play fetch, too.
How to Do It: Head outside and throw your dog his favorite toy—only this time, race him to pick it up. You'll probably lose (unless you do a cheater fake-out move), so you'll have to wrestle the toy from his mouth, toss it again, and start the race all over.
This is exactly like the children's game you played years ago.
How to Do It: You're it to start: "Tag" your dog, then run around the yard and let her chase you. If you have a little dog, chase her instead. After a few minutes, all that sprinting will have both of your hearts pounding, guaranteed. "A lot of chasing activities are fun," Johnson says. "Dogs like to chase and be chased, and it's a more playful twist on exercise than just running or walking."
Swimming offers dogs the same great, low-impact exercise potential it does humans.
How to Do It: First of all, if you don't have a water-loving breed—like a retriever, a water dog or a setter—let him ease into the water at his own pace. Consider a doggy life jacket, and enter the water in a shallow place where he can wade in by himself. If he likes it, slowly back deeper and deeper into the water until he's really swimming. If you know your dog likes swimming, bring a toy to fetch and race him to it. You can swim for longer bouts, but remember that he will follow you regardless of his own fatigue, so head back to shore occasionally to rest up in the shade.
Trust us, it's easier to organize a run with your dog than it is the other young professionals you live with. "Dogs are perfect workout partners," says Johnson. "They will never discourage you from exercise—‘It’s too hot. I’m too busy. I’m tired today.’—all those usual kinds of excuses people give for not exercising. You’ll never hear that from a dog.” Plus, he'll always set his pace according to yours (unless, of course, a squirrel darts in front of you).
How to Do It: Unless your dog is incredibly disciplined, keep him on a leash. Be sure that wherever you run has water available along the route—a pond or creek will do the trick nicely. Also, pay attention to your pooch—he's likely to fatigue before an experienced runner. Now get out and go!
This is a way for you and your dog to work some circuit training into your routine.
How to Do It: In a fenced-in area, set up an agility course for your pup. "Start out with just five or six cones," says Montgomery. "Or paper plates, if you don't have cones." Then walk briskly or run through the course with your dog leashed, weaving in and out of the plates. To add more of a challenge, leave gear like a jump rope, bosu ball and a fitness step along the course. At each station, stop and do an exercise—like jumping rope or push-ups using the step—while your dog sits and waits for you.
"Doga" is a partner yoga class that shares your yoga practice with your pet through poses that incorporate a lot of massaging, light stretches, relaxing and bonding. It's great, because it's a fairly easy style of yoga suited to inexperienced yoga practitioners and delivers soothing, restorative stretches for you and your pup.
How to Do It: Classes are popping up all over the country, and FREE videos are available online to get you and pooch started.
Do some good with your dog by completing one of several canine-friendly charity races around the country. Like we said earlier, there's no better training partner than a dog, so they present the perfect opportunity for you and pooch to work together toward a fitness goal.
How to Do It: Enter a dog-friendly race, like California's Race for the Rescues (pictured) or the K-9 5K trail race in Cape Cod, and start training! Lists of trail races and road races are available online.
Strengthen your butt and thighs while your dog gets major air.
How to Do It: Stand with legs shoulder-width apart. Lower into a squat and tap your dog with a treat or his favorite toy. As you rise, lift the toy above your head; your dog will jump up for it. “The dog is actually jumping up at the same time with us, so he’s getting the same jumping motion that we’re getting," says Tricia Montgomery of K9 Fit Club, who calls this move Jumping Jack Russell Terriers. "Meanwhile, we’re working on our hamstrings, our calves and our core at the same time.”
Strengthen your core while your dog sprints through a game of fetch with this exercise developed by celebrity trainer Gunnar Peterson for petfit.com, an initiative he started to help pets get more exercise and eat healthier.
How to Do It: Grab your pup's favorite fetch toy and lay down on the floor in sit-up position. Hold the toy as you do a sit-up, and pretend to toss it as you reach the top. Your dog will chase after it until he realizes you still have his toy. Do another sit-up, and pretend to toss the toy again. Get in as many reps as you can before your dog stops chasing and playing along.